The earliest factory registered car known to us today is the recently resurfaced VWK 171S, a 1977 FHC car. It is a X8** experimental car. This is a white fuel injected automatic with air conditioning. We happen to know, from a TR8 owning ex-factory engineer who we know well, that this very car was used in a lot of the development work on the fuel injection/ignition systems. He drove it regularly whilst it was at the works. This may not be entirely fair to HOJ 156W, not registered until 1981, which is known to have been hand built (at Longbridge) well before 1977. This is often regarded as the earliest car still in captivity, also a white automatic car with aircon, but this one has carbs and cats. The car is immaculate today, rather uniquely still runs cats, and is very well known to us. Apparently this is a real laugh at MOT emissions tests. The look on the face of a tester who hears an old V8 running on carbs, yet clocks virtually no CO emissions with an exhaust probe, can apparently lead to some fantastic games. There is one more HOJ, namely 491W registered late 1980, which is a green DHC. I will at this stage also mention ORW 749W an earlier car registered late in 1980. Once again this is a white FHC. This gives a bit of a pattern or theme around this era. Another early experimental car was registered YRW 606S, but was at some stage re-registered, most likely as a cherished transfer. The car still exists, is well known to us, but is off road at present. Interestingly there are no details on YRW 605S either, yet these two are liberally surrounded by factory registered TR7s. All of the above TR8s are LHD cars.
There are 4 1978 registered cars: a pair CHP 532T and CHP 533T, both green, and then a brown car CHP 535T. 532 is not known to us and is off road at the moment. 533 is a curious car as is it is registered as a 1998cc (i.e. TR7) yet it is known to be a factory V8 DHC (i.e. what later became known as a TR8). These are probably the earliest DHC TR8s. 535 was lost off records around 1983, so did not survive for long. EKV 397T is alleged to be a TR8; I have never seen it so cannot comment. This number is not apparent on the records I have seen.
On to 1979/80 then, and the V-reg cars, featuring the majority of road registered factory cars, from a period when the majority of production TR8s were also built. HVC 565V is a FHC and was registered late in 1979 and is currently off road. Then follows JVC 824V, a white fuel injected car with some unique features. This has a X9** identifier, hence again is experimental. It is a DHC and is very well known to us. Thereafter a pair of green FHCs registered JVC 840V and JVC 842V, registered on the same day early in 1980. (note we have 824 and 842, a little numbers game on the TR8s?). JVC 841V has no record today, might this have been a trio of TR8s? Curiously whilst 840 is in use today it is a car we do not know.